Updated: Aug 23, 2021
If you have a smaller aquarium, around 40 gallons or less, getting into CO2 doesn't have to be super expensive. "How can that be? I hear CO2 is expensive"... because of mini regulators that have been introduced into the market!
These mini regulators are designed to fit on a paintball tank and costs around $97. We've been running a mini regulator on a 30 gallon since 2015. I actually loved them so much, I bought a second one! One 24oz paintball tank attached to this regulator will last me 2-3 months. I ended up getting (4) 24oz paintball tanks and only have to get them refilled once a year... and it's been amazing. All the gear to go along with this regulator put the total cost of a CO2 system around $163. Some of the gear you might already have around the house, like a wall timer.
But here is what you need.
Wall timer (doesn't have to be fancy)
Bubble Counter (optional)
And here is how you connect everything up!
The regulator will plug into the timer and the timer will open and close the electric solenoid turning the CO2 on and off. This is important as we don't want the CO2 on at night. It's just a waste. The paintball tank screws into the bottom of the regulator. CO2 grade tubing connects into the regulator, but shortly after the regulator, you'll want to hook up your check valve. This is SUPER important and DO NOT USE A CHEAP PLASTIC CHECK VALVE. As your system turns off and pressurizes down, tank water can flow back into the regulator. If this happens, it can gum up your regulator making it hard to adjust. After the check value, you can go straight into your CO2 diffuser, OR you can add a bubble counter. I like the bubble counter as it's a visual indication that my CO2 is on and flowing! There are times when your CO2 system is pressurizing up, but there are no bubbles coming out of the diffuser. So this just helps you see that you have CO2 flowing, OR, you need to change out your paintball tank. And that is it!
If you want to learn more about how to dial in your CO2, you can check out our CO2 guide. Scroll down to the "Getting the right amount of CO2" section at the bottom. We hope this article helps to make CO2 less daunting, and happy scaping!